29 December, 2015

The Sun's Coming Out, But I'm Feeling Colder

view from my bedroom window
The view outside my bedroom window in San Diego, California

Over the weekend, I visited my grandmother in Los Angeles.  

I don't see her often. Over the years, she made some attempts to keep a familiarity between us, like remembering my birthday every year (then every other year), but I wasn't able to love her like I love to love: I never had the opportunity to love her specifics, or the way she holds books while she reads, or the way she hosts parties.  So I missed her from afar.

Being in her home two days after Christmas, I take in as much as I can.  Every lampshade and candlestick, every noise I hear, every fabric I feel: maybe I could burn them into my memory, keep these as treasures, store them in my head for whenever I feel like recalling the atmosphere she creates.

My grandmother opens her mouth wide when she laughs, as if she's surprised at herself for saying something so deliciously against the norm of conversation.  My grandfather has a voice that melts me every single time I listen to it.  I see him once every two years, and I always think it's much rougher than it actually is.  He lets me kiss him on the cheek to greet him, and he taps my back awkwardly with his right hand, the hand that has two of his fingers missing, which he had taken from him in a maquiladora accident.  

I make note of the fact that their house seems smaller than it did when I was a toddler.  I thought it was endless, a myriad of undiscovered places and rooms I wasn't allowed in.  Now it feels like each floor is one big room with tinier designated spaces separated by walls.

I don't visit the house often, but I know exactly where everything is.  I know which shelf the outdated picture of my sisters and I sits.  I know which drawer the cutlery is in.  I remember the secret passageway I used to go through on the side of her house, where the palm trees and the banana leaves grew into each other, making a green ceiling.  I'd hide there, pretending I was lost in a jungle, until it was time to leave.

I pay attention to the way my grandmother tells stories.  She captivates everybody.  She is the master of The Conversation.  She asks the questions, people respond to her.  The responses are short on my part at first, because I selfishly don't want to reveal anything about myself.  But then she starts asking more personal questions that I have to lie to, and I wish I didn't have to lie.  And I wish I was able to be 100% transparent with her.  I regret keeping mum during the simpler questions before.

My grandmother tells us a story about the time her and my tata met.  She also tells us her about her experience meeting the Pope in Washington D.C. earlier this year. She continues to be the master of The Conversation.  When the chatter dies down, she asks someone else a question.  My mother makes the mistake of trying to become the master of The Conversation by expanding on a story.  But she is, unfortunately, interrupted--my grandmother becomes the master again.  She interrupts my mother's story with a personal anecdote of her own.  There are no hard feelings; it is just the way the world is meant to be.  My grandmother was not meant to be on the receiving end of a talk.

We're all sitting in my grandmother's living room.  I sit next to the fireplace.  It exudes an intense heat, which I'm grateful for because I'm wearing a short skirt and kitten heels.  I don't know if it's the warmth of the fireplace or my growing melancholia, but I begin to feel sleepy. I grow intensely quiet.  I stare at the carpet while I listen to my family exchange memories.

Delivered Italian food arrives.  We eat pizza, and pasta, and chicken wings, which strikes me as completely informal and contrary to my idea of how seriously my grandmother takes the idea of guests in her home.  I silently eat and listen to the adults speak.  I, of course, am also an adult-- but nobody there sees me as an adult.  How could they-- the more acute memories anyone in that house has of me is me as a child.

I slip away from the commotion in my grandmother's kitchen and I sneak into her backyard.  I have a view of the Los Angeles skyline.  I take pictures.  I feel happy.  I feel good seeing a pink sunset.  It feels familiar, it feels like my house back in San Diego.  I pretend that this means that maybe my grandmother and I are connected after all.  

I hear them all laugh inside.  My heart softens.  I am pleased that my father is getting along so well with his parents.

I am back in a hotel room later that night.  I am very quiet still.  I'm not sleepy.  I'm just sitting.  My sisters and I are all barefoot and we're listening to disco music coming from the speakers of one of our phones.  After a while I stop feeling sorry for myself and I dance, too.  I look at myself in the mirror, having fun, and I decide that it's true that a smile is the best accessory.  I accept that I look pretty having fun.  I make note of this.

The next day, we must leave Los Angeles.  My sisters and I eat complimentary breakfast at the hotel.  The entire time we eat, I can't focus on the conversation at the table.  Instead, I'm thinking about how breakfast in hotels scare me.  It seems I've had more anxiety-induced episodes in hotel breakfasts than I should have to count.  I can't concentrate.  Instead, I'm wondering whether I'm going to have an episode this time around.  My guard is up.  I am on edge.  I get sensory overload.  The scraping of a knife on a plate, the clanking of forks, the loud chatter, the chewing, the warmth of too many people, it becomes too much.  I become easily irritated.  Suddenly, a darkness takes over me.  A sadness, a heaviness, in which I attempt to have a pity party.  But I don't know what I'm pitying-- there's nothing to complain about.  I try my hardest to connect my dissatisfaction to something.  I wonder whether there was something wrong last night that I missed.  I begin to scavenge my brain for anything negative that occurred the night prior to attach all my dark energy, so that it can make some sense.  I can't find anything.  I attach my darkness to my inability to find any meaning in my darkness.

As I write this, I'm sniffling because of a flu I acquired all thanks to hotel air conditioning, I suspect.  I'm thinking about how lucky I am to live in San Diego rather than Los Angeles.  I'm thinking about how I don't want to have an overbearing darkness within me.  It's five in the afternoon, the sun is setting.  The sky is hot pink and orange.  Familiarity.  Connection.  A pattern.

I was giggling happily earlier today. Now I'm solemn. Trying to make myself happy seems fake.  I need to give myself space to be sad.  But how big should this space be?  How long should I allow myself to be in it? I'm tired.  My body is weary.  I don't want to carry this sadness any longer.

a hotel lobby
The lobby of a hotel I visit twice a year
inside of a hotel room
outside of a hotel room
The view from the room
los angeles, post-christmas
So many palm trees
los angeles, post-christmas
Bloody Los Angeles sunset
los angeles, post-christmas
A home
los angeles, post-christmas
Someone wealthy lives up there
los angeles, post-christmas
Avoiding revisiting myself

03 December, 2015

For The Unloved Broken People


Every time I try to write the first sentence of this post, it gets erased, and an even more passive-aggressive one takes its place.  I think I have to check within me one more time and accept that there's nobody to attack.  Because that's the whole point of this essay.

Being a broken person is not pretty.  Being broken does not equal being found while you're wandering a city by yourself at night, doing "broken person" things.  Someone will not find you and think that you're just weird enough for them to love unconditionally.  How could they?  When you're so broken that you're too ashamed to let any one in.  How could any one know?

That's the thing about there being something wrong with you.  There's so much shame.  Because people do love you.  But your inherent self-hatred prevents you from feeling that love.  It feels like people are doing their homework, taking care of you.  You can hear the strain in their voice when they tell you for the hundredth time that there's nothing to panic about.

esperando a mi terapeuta

There's been a culmination of events.  (Isn't there always?)  I'm frightened a lot these days.  It's as though my body knows that there's a slow unraveling happening within me, but my brain doesn't yet.  I can sense it.  When I wake up, I stare.  It's been taking me longer to get out of bed.  I pace a lot.  I'm not thinking of anything particularly important, but I pace and I pace and I pace and I worry about something that needs me to worry about it.  I fall asleep in baths.  I can't bring myself to cry much anymore.

Last night I attended a candlelight vigil for a girl I used to go to high school with.  I went to support her parents, because both of their daughters had passed away in the accident.  I didn't expect to cry.  I didn't feel my boots get heavy during the vigil.  I didn't feel my boots get heavy as I walked away, listening to people cry in the distance.  I didn't feel my boots get heavy in the car ride home.  It wasn't until I arrived in my room that I felt my shoulders, my feet, my hands, my head get heavier.

Since January, I've realized how much death horrifies me.  You know how there's many things you know are horrible, but your innate naïveté helps you not freak out about them?

You know you're going to die, you know your parents are going to die, you know accidents happen, you know the world is unsafe, but there's many distractors (I know, it sounded harsh as I typed it) in life that remind you that there's no use being afraid of them every waking moment.  That's not what living with a panic disorder is like.  I won't even try to explain what that's like, because I'm completely done with reading generalizations about this, as though we all think the same and have the same triggers and are phobic of the same things, but that's not my point.

I studied books for months, swallowed pills, went to yoga, kept a journal, opened up to friends, took up new hobbies, and somewhere at the beginning of fall, I felt better.  That's the one thing all the books and all the therapists warn you about: don't assume it's gone forever.  It might come back, it might not, but it might, and you can't admit defeat.  "Fight just as hard as this time."

But the books and the online self-help essays can't help but work on those damned generalizations.  It took me months to admit I needed help, it took me half a year to see results.  Now I'm back in square one.  And I wish asking for help didn't feel like the most selfish thing in the world.


To the people who have been lied to and told that their pain is pretty, I'm sorry.  Something I've read over and over in my books is that one of the best ways to help someone with anxiety or depression is to avoid giving unrequited advice.  So this is me acknowledging your pain.

For the broken people who feel like love is something that people have to give to you for you to stay alive.  For the people who have to be mindful of everything that they do, not to live a happier life, but because letting your mind be free has catastrophic consequences.  For the people who fear emotional intimacy because they know that people leave.  Because they don't want love to feel like a chore, too.

For the people who can't remember whole days, whole weeks, whole months.  For the people who are afraid to be alone.  For the people who are afraid of public transport.

For the broken people whose phobias get mocked on television.  For the people who get the message that everyone else sees how unreasonable they are.  For the ones who feel everyone walks on eggshells around them.

I don't know how to comfort us yet.  But I understand you.